Why would a person who is terrified of cockroaches use them in a math lesson? The idea for this investigation did not occur to me until I read a newspaper article that described Italian scientist Paolo Domenici's research about cockroaches' escape trajectories. In particular, he found that cockroaches have preferred escape trajectories of 90, 120, 150, and 180 degrees from the source of danger (Domenici et al. 2008). Because this real-world information presents a unique problem-solving context for fifth graders to explore angles formed by clockwise and counterclockwise rotations, I overcame my fear of the creatures to develop this investigation.
Edited by LouAnn H. Lovin, email@example.com, and Ann Wallace, firstname.lastname@example.org, who teach mathematics methods and content courses to prospective teachers and classroom teachers at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The “investigations” department features classroom-tested, multilesson units that help students develop conceptual understanding of math topics. Classroom teachers may reproduce this material for use with their own students without requesting permission from NCTM. Submit manuscripts appropriate for this department by accessing http://tcm.msubmit.net. Limit manuscripts to 3000 words, excluding two reproducible pages of activities. See detailed submission guidelines for all departments at www.nctm.org/tcmdepartments.